David Sproxton Public Lecture

Perspectives on Animation David Sproxton

The 2011 Richard Gregory Lecture, organised by the Public and Ceremonial Events Office and Bristol Vision Institute took place on Monday 24 October 2011.

David Sproxton CBE, co-founder and Executive Chairman of Aardman Animations has given this year’s Richard Gregory Memorial Lecture on ‘Perspectives on Animation’. Covering the past, present and future of Aardman Animations, and with the support of many ‘classic cuts’, David discussed why animation can have such a powerful resonance with an audience.

Considering expression, with examples from ‘Morph’ and ‘Gromit’, the lecture explored how we can read emotions from inanimate objects, and if we have a pre-formed language of expression, including body language, that is universal. David asked: how do we read faces, even if they are not human and how do animated designs still connect with audiences?

Moving into film and animation production, the lecture concluded by asking whether the current fashion for 3D films is beneficial to the way an audience engages with fictional characters and stories. Current and emerging research in this area will be presented to hypothesise on future developments.


David Sproxton is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Aardman. Together with co-founder Peter Lord,he has overseen the development of the company from a two-man partnership to one of the pre-eminent animation houses in the industry. David has served as a producer, director or cinematographer on a number of animated projects at Aardman.

Sproxton and Lord met at Woking Grammar School for Boys, and in 1970 made their first animated film using David’s Bolex camera. It was a crude piece using cutouts and chalk drawings yet showed enough talent for a BBC Children’s Television producer to offer the pair a chance to make short animated films for his programme Vision On.

After graduating from Durham University, David decided to pursue filmmaking full-time. In 1972, Sproxton and Lord formed Aardman and in 1976, moved to their permanent home in Bristol, England. Their first professional creation was the character Morph, who went on to star in the BBC series The Amazing Adventures of Morph.

During this period, the duo made two short animated films, Down and Out and Confessions of a Foyer Girl, to which they applied the groundbreaking technique of using recorded conversations of real people as the basis for the script. Later, five more films called Conversation Pieces, using the same “vox pop” technique, were commissioned by Channel 4. “Vox pop” was also utilized in Aardman’s Lip Synch series for Channel 4 which included Nick Park’s Oscar®- winning short Creature Comforts.

In addition to Nick, the studio is known for discovering and nurturing new filmmakers. These include Steve Box who won a BAFTA Award for his direction of Stage Fright and co-directed The Curse of the Wererabbit with Nick Park; the Oscar®-nominated and BAFTA-winning Peter Peake the director of HumDrum and many commercials. Also, Richard Goleszowski who directed the Rex the Runt series for BBC 2 and the Creature Comforts series for ITV; Darren Walsh (Angry Kid) and Stefan Marjoram (BBC3 Blobs and Presentators for Nickleodeon).

David co-produced Aardman’s first feature film Chicken Run (2000), the Wallace and Gromit feature The Curse of the Wererabbit (2005), and the CGI feature Flushed Away (2006), made in association with DreamWorks. David is currently involved in the development of further feature films in association with Sony Pictures. He is also involved in the many TV projects the studio is developing including Shaun the Sheep, Chop Socky Chooks, Angry Kid, Timmy and the latest Wallace and Gromit film, A Matter of Loaf and Death.

David Sproxton spent 9 years on the board of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Trust and three years on the Board of the UK Film Council. He is now chairman of Encounters Festivals (Bristol’s celebration of the Short film) and a board member of At-Bristol and the National Film Television School.